Just a week after the general election results were finalized by Elections officials, the Senate has announced the formation of a new Democratic majority and officers.
Being part of the majority means chairing committees and holding formal office in the Senate, which conveys influence over what legislation is heard and when it is heard, in committee and on the Senate floor.
According to a release from outgoing Senate President Neville James’ office, returning Sen. Myron Jackson of St. Thomas is the president-elect of the incoming 32nd Legislature, continuing a longstanding tradition of passing the presidential gavel between districts with each new Legislature. James, a St. Croix senator, took the gavel from St. Thomian Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone in 2014. Before that were St. Croix Sen. Ronald Russell in 2012; St. Thomas Sen. Louis Hill in 2010 and St. Croix Sen. Usie Richards in 2008.
"The campaign is over and I’m glad that 10 of the 11 Democrats elected saw fit to put a majority
caucus in place that will provide the kind of representative government the territory deserves and needs" James said in a statement Monday.
Sen. Janette Millin Young (D-STT) is not listed as part of the majority caucus.
"The legislature as an institution has a responsibility to pass legislation and exercise oversight to allow for a better quality of life and I am confident that the legislative officers selected along with the respective committee chairmanships will result in a productive term throughout 2017 and 2018," he said.
James will assume the role of majority leader when the newly-elected members are take office in January. The federal Revised Organic Act of 1954 mandates the Legislature be sworn in on the second Monday in January after the election.
James served in the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th legislatures, lost in 2012, then returned again in 2014 for the 31st Legislature.
Jackson will be serving his third term in the Legislature. Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly of St. Croix will be Senate vice president and Sen. Jean Forde of St. Thomas will be the legislative secretary. O’Reilly is a former independent senator who joined the Democratic Party since the 2014 election.
Joining the newly organized majority caucus will be St. Thomas Sen. Marvin Blyden, St. Croix Sens. Novelle Francis, Jr., Sammuel Sanes and Kurt Vialet, along with freshmen senators Kevin Rodriguez and Brian Smith, both of St. Thomas.
"Committee chairmanships have been assigned to all of the caucus members and as soon as the
committee memberships have been filled out, we will be announcing what the composition of the committee’s will be," James said. "All of the caucus members are extremely comfortable with their respective chairmanships and we look forward to working with both the executive and the judicial branches of government."
Senators not part of the governing majority are: Young, Sens. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen (IND-STX), Tregenza Roach (IND-STT) and Dwayne DeGraff (IND-STT.)